Armstrong Hall of Fame inductees recount roots
Former Kittanning football and wrestling star Adam Brochetti never met his uncle, Frank Brochetti, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1972. But Frank's picture above the fireplace in his grandparents' home still influenced his decision to have a career in the military.
Adam Brochetti advanced to captain in the Marine Corps, and he and his uncle were two of 12 inductees honored before a crowd of 473 on Sunday at the 40th annual Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame banquet at Freeport's Laube Hall.
“I feel a sense of honor to be commissioned and send our most precious resource into a combat operation in Afghanistan and to have all return,” the younger Brochetti said.
Adam Brochetti remains the third leading rusher in Kittanning history and compiled a 111-9 wrestling record in four seasons.
John Brochetti, accepting induction for his brother, said “Frank was a three-sport letterman and was maybe 145 pounds soaking wet. But he competed with the tenacity of a giant.”
Dayton's Ray Alcorn, also honored for athletic talent and military service, joked about his small-town roots when he said: “I wasn't from Dayton; I was from the suburbs — of Snyderville.”
But Alcorn credited the values he learned from sports in helping him endure more than seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Dave Buchner, a two-way tackle on Apollo's 1965 WPIAL football runner-up, got the biggest laugh of the night when he recalled his reaction upon being notified of his induction.
“It's been so long since I played, I asked if they were starting a special section for dinosaurs,” Buchner said.
Jody McMeans Dean, a three-sport standout at Dayton, wasn't interested in sports as a young girl.
“My mother told me to go outside and play sports instead of staying home and reading,” Dean said. “But, now, I'm an English teacher and librarian, so I can read all the time.”
Shawn Earl of Ford City said he was honored to be the first among the 404 inductees to enshrined for archery.
Another inductee, Kittanning's Jon Spangler, signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers before foot and ankle injuries ended a promising baseball career.
Joe Ridgeley recounted a successful career in football and track at Freeport and coaching both sports at Central Cambria.
Carrie Bullman Miles said she competed in the javelin at Karns City and Clarion for the love of the sport and not individual recognition.
Leechburg's Don Marco didn't start running until age 49, a mere 16 years ago. He lamented missing the running fad of the 1970s but has more than made up for it since, competing in more than 100 races, including next Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon.
Andy Balbo, a 1970 Leechburg graduate, said he has never forgotten the lessons his coaches taught him.
“We didn't win all our games, but we were taught how to deal with winning and losing,” Balbo said.
Worthington's William Hodak founded that community's Little League program and also has taught love of the outdoors to numerous youngsters, educating in hunting, trapping, bowhunting and hunters' ethics.
George Guido is a freelance writer.